The Corvey Novels Project at the University of Nebraska
Studies in British Literature of the Romantic Period
Bio-critical Sketch of Catherine Gore
Catherine Gore (1799 - 1861)
Catherine Gore was born Catherine Grace Frances Moody in East Retford, Nottingham in 1799. She was educated at home in London and showed early skill as a writer. At the age of 23, Catherine married Captain Charles Arthur Gore on February 15, 1823. Later that year she published The Two Broken Hearts, a verse story, and in 1824 she put out her first novel, Theresa Marchment, or The Maid of Honour. Captain Gore's connections to publishers who printed his travel writings seem to have facilitated his wife's entrance into the novel-writing market.
Catherine Gore is best known for her many "silver-fork" novels, which depicted fashionable high society. In 1830, she published her first silver-fork novel, Women As They Are, or Manners of the Day, and then went on to write many more books in the popular genre that provided her with a considerable income. She was known as a bright conversationalist, an attribute that also displayed itself in the dialogue in her novels. Her writings were characterized by lively satire, sharp insight into character, and faithful observation of life. They were extremely popular at the time and serve as a faithful depiction of the life of the English upper classes during the period. George IV said of her Women as they are, or Manners of the Day, that it was "the best bred and most amusing novel published in his remembrance" (Stephen).
Despite the popularity of these novels, they were criticized for their focus on nobility and their perceived lack of serious subject matter. William Thackeray satirized Catherine Gore in a series of articles for Punch, the famous magazine for Victorian humor. Thackeray then produced the novel Lords and Liveries, by the authoress of 'Dukes and Dejeuners,' 'Hearts and Diamonds,' 'Marchionesses and Milliners,' which satirized the romance of high society and fashionable life with which Catherine Gore filled her tales.
In addition to her silver-fork novels, Catherine Gore also published historical romances, journal articles and travel writings, which she stated were the strongest indication of her talent and power as a writer. She also wrote plays, including her first in 1831, The School for Coquettes, which ran for thirty nights at the Haymarket threatre, and Quid pro Quo, or the Day of the Dupes in 1843,which won a prize from the Haymarket critics for best new comedy. She also set the words of Burns' "Ye shall walk in silk attire," "Welcome, welcome," and "The Three Long Years" to melody, making them some of the most popular songs of the day.
In 1832, Catherine Gore moved to Paris with her husband, who had taken a diplomatic post there. They returned to England nine years later, and in 1841 her best-known novel, Cecil, or Adventures of a Coxcomb, was published, along with its sequel Cecil, a Peer. That same year, she began a series of articles for Bentley's Miscellany under the pseudonym Albany Poyntz.
Throughout her career, Catherine Gore displayed valuable business sense. Though she sometimes tired of the silver-fork genre, calling them her "sickly progeny" in an 1832 letter to the editor of the Athenaeum, she continued publishing them to secure income for her family. When a bank scandal in 1855 left her swindled out of £20,000, she reissued her 1843 novel about a corrupt banker, The Banker's Wife, to recover some of her losses. She also published two of her novels anonymously in the same week to encourage competition that would lead to higher sales.
Catherine Gore's writing is often compared to Jane Austen's, particularly her descriptions of the "heartless society mother" (Ward & Trent). Besides the obvious purpose of providing an income, Catherine Gore seems to have written for the same purpose as Jane Austen: to broaden the restrictive boundaries of their lives as women. However, while Jane Austen rejected the public recognition she received for her work, Catherine Gore seems to have embraced the popularity that earned her a sizeable income and a place in the fashionable high society she wrote about.
Capt. Charles and Catherine Gore had 10 children before Charles died in 1846. All but two of the children died before their mother. Daughter Cecilia married Edward Thynne, a young son of the Marquis of Bath.
Catherine Gore wrote until she went completely blind in 1859. She died two years later in Linwood, Hampshire. Over her lifetime, Catherine Gore published more than 60 novels and journal articles and several plays.
SOURCES:Stephen, Sir Leslie and Sir Sidney Lee, eds. Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP / London: Humphrey Milford, 1917.
Edwards, Barbara. "Biography of Catherine Gore." May 1998. 7 December 2002. <www.shu.ac.uk/corvey/corinne/1Gore/BioGore.html>
Todd, Janet, ed. British Women Writers. New York: Continuum, 1989.
Wagner, Tamara S. "Catherine Gore: Brief Biography." National University of Singapore / Cambridge University. 2 December 2002. 7 December 2002. <www.victorianweb.org/authors/gore/bio.html>
Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907-21; New York: Bartleby.com, 2000 <www.bartleby.com/cambridge/>. 7 December 2002.
- Prepared by Emmy Thomas, University of Nebraska, December 2002